Date: August 2003
Creator: Angel-Cann, Lauryn
Description: Nineteenth-century British fiction is often dismissed as necrophillic or obsessed with death. While the label of necrophilia is an apt description of the fetishistic representations of dead women prevalent at the end of the century, it is too narrow to fit literature produced earlier in the century. This is not to say that abnormal attitudes toward death are only a feature of the late nineteenth century. In fact, pathological attitudes toward death abound in the literature, but the relationship between the deceased and the survivor is not always sexual in nature. Rather, there is a clear shift in attitudes, from the chaste death fantasy, or attraction to the idea of death, prevalent in Gothic works, to the destructive, stagnant mourning visible in mid-century texts, and culminating in the perverse sexualization of dead women at the turn of the century. This literary shift is most likely attributable to the concurrent changes in attitudes toward sex and death. As sex became more acceptable, more public, via the channels of scientific discourse, death became a less acceptable idea. This “denial of death” is a direct reaction to the religious uncertainties brought about by industrialization. As scientists and industrialists uncovered increasing evidence against a ...
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries